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Activision Harassment Suit Loses California Agency’s Top Lawyer

April 6, 2022, 2:14 AM

The chief counsel at California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing is stepping down from the agency’s lawsuit against video game giant Activision Blizzard Inc., according to a filing in state court Tuesday.

Janette Wipper, who was nominated to the agency by Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. (D), sued Activision in July, alleging a “frat boy” culture of sexual harassment and discrimination against female employees.

The agency’s lawsuit followed a two-year investigation into Activision, and included claims of gender discrimination regarding pay, promotion, and termination policies, among other violations of state law.

In March, Activision settled a similar set of claims filed under federal law by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, after the judge in that case rejected DFEH’s attempts to block the settlement.

Wipper, who has led the state agency’s legal strategy since 2018, and assistant chief counsel Melanie Proctor will no longer be involved in the DFEH’s case against Activision, which is currently pending in Los Angeles Superior Court, according to the notice of withdrawal.

Both attorneys previously led the agency’s lawsuit against another California video game maker, Tencent Holdings Ltd. subsidiary Riot Games Inc. That suit, filed in 2018, also alleged gender discrimination, and settled for $100 million in Dec. 2021.

Prior to her appointment to DFEH, Wipper served as the head of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ Pacific region, based in San Francisco.

Under her leadership, the region took on a reputation for doggedly pursuing audits of federal contractor facilities, and oversaw the initiation of an audit of Google salary data that sparked litigation over the data companies are required to turn over for review. An audit of Oracle America Inc. also led the agency to file a lawsuit accusing the tech company of pay discrimination based on race and sex.

The case is DFEH v. Activision Blizzard Inc., Cal. Super. Ct., No. 21stcv26571, 4/5/22.

To contact the reporters on this story: Maeve Allsup in San Francisco at mallsup@bloomberglaw.com; Paige Smith in Washington at psmith@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Meghashyam Mali at mmali@bloombergindustry.com